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Stags' second half run silences SP

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 1st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

SOUTH PORTLAND—Undefeated and largely unchallenged this winter, the Cheverus boys' basketball team found itself in a donnybrook Friday night at Beal Gymnasium against an undermanned, underexperienced, but very plucky and talented South Portland squad.

The Red Riots went toe-to-toe with the Stags from the get-go and late in the third quarter led the defending Class A champions by two, but Cheverus did what it does like no other: turned up the defensive intensity, got contributions from everyone on the floor, and rode the individual poise and brilliance of junior Indiana Faithfull on a 13-0 run which led the way to an eventual 52-39 triumph.

Faithfull had six points in the final 2 minutes, 11 seconds of the third period, punctuated by a circus, falling-out-of-bounds shot that sucked the life out of the hosts. Cheverus then scored the first five points of the fourth period and South Portland never got closer than eight down the stretch.

The Stags improved to 16-0. The Red Riots are now 13-3.

“I felt we showed who we were down the stretch,” said Cheverus coach Bob Brown, who once upon a time, led South Portland to glory as the Red Riots' head man. “We made shots and made big plays.”

The teams were meeting for the second time in a week. On Jan. 23, just prior to tipoff, Red Riots' junior Matt Lee, a tremendous complement to classmate and standout Keegan Hyland, tore his meniscus and had to be scratched (he has since been declared out for the remainder of the season). South Portland hung tough for a quarter, but the Stags eventually pulled away to win 60-41 behind 23 points from senior Mick DiStasio.

Cheverus has simply run roughshod over all comers this winter. The Stags entered the game winners of 15 straight league games by an average of over 26 points per contest. Tuesday's 57-48 triumph at Thornton Academy was the first and only time, Cheverus won by fewer than 10 points.

South Portland, meanwhile, is enjoying another solid season. The Red Riots had only lost to Westbrook and Cheverus entering the contest and were coming off a huge 57-49 home win over Portland Tuesday.

A year ago, on the same floor, the Stags had to rally for a stirring overtime win over South Portland. This time, the hosts would again make things interesting, but ultimately Cheverus simply had too much.

After a slow start, the visitors took the lead on a pair of foul shots from senior Peter Foley with 6:16 to go in the first period. DiStasio followed with a  3 and Foley hit a jumper as the Stags threatened to run away and hide. With 4:20 to go in the first, Hyland hit a 3-ball to get his team on the board. Senior Dan Foster and Faithfull answered with layups, however, and Cheverus had an 11-3 advantage.

The Red Riots quickly responded. After junior Connor Hasson scored on a rebound layup, Hyland hit another 3, then made a layup to pull his team within a point, 11-10. With time winding down in the first, DiStasio made a 3-pointer to give the Stags a 14-10 lead after one.

South Portland junior Ryan Curit (a standout running back in the fall who brings a football mentality to the hardwood) made two free throws to start the second period. Sophomore Vukasin Vignjevic followed with a layup to pull the Red Riots even at 14-14. DiStasio put Cheverus back on top with a 3-pointer, but Hasson made a layup. After a Faithfull layup, Hyland hit two foul shots and junior Jon DiBiase made a layup with 3:48 to play in the first half to put South Portland up for the first time, 20-19.

The Red Riots wouldn't score again in the half, however, and with 52.2 seconds to go, DiStasio converted an old-fashioned three-point play for a 22-20 Stags' lead at the break.

Hyland opened the third with a 3-pointer to put South Portland back on top, 23-22, but Foley scored on an old-fashioned three-point play and junior Lenny Cummings made a jump shot. The Red Riots answered as Hyland hit a 3, Hasson made a free throw and junior Spencer Bowring took a pass from Hyland and made a layup for a 29-27 lead with 3:12 to go in the period.

That would prove to be South Portland's high-water mark.

The Red Riots had a couple chances to extend their lead and really pressure the visitors, but couldn't convert. Then, with 2:11 left in the third, Faithfull scored on a layup after a steal. Forty-nine seconds later, Faithfull hit two foul shots to put the Stags ahead to stay. After sophomore Peter Gwilym came in off the bench to hit a jumper, Faithfull delivered a cruel blow to South Portland's hopes at the end of the third.

With time winding down, a long shot bounced off the rim and appeared to be heading out of play on the right wing, but Faithfull chased the ball down and launched a prayer at the horn, falling out of bounds in the process. The rainbow found nothing but net and Cheverus had a 35-29 advantage heading for the fourth.

“It was just lucky,” Faithfull said. “It bounced to me and I just threw it up. I'm not sure it will ever happen again, but it was nice.”

“He's always going to remember that shot,” Brown added. “I'll remember the fact that he was a real athlete who with a second left didn't stop playing.”

The Red Riots were still very much in the game, but after Gwilym made a layup and DiStasio hit a 3, the hosts were down 11, 40-29, with 7:15 to play.

“I thought Peter Gwilym was monumental,” Brown said. “He's playing only three or four minutes a game. He's an athlete. He was going to make a play. His shooting's been great. I have confidence in him. He's only a sophomore. I didn't know how he'd react to the crowd, but he thrived on it.”

A Bowring foul shot with 6:45 left ended the 13-0 run and 4 minute, 27 second drought, but Foley answered with a jump shot to push the lead to 12. After Bowring hit two free throws and Hyland made a jumper to get the hosts back within eight, 42-34, with 3:38 to go, DiStasio made a layup. South Portland got within eight one final time on a pair of Hyland free throws, but Gwilym made a layup and Faithfull hit six straight foul shots to put it away. An old-fashioned three-point play from sophomore Mike Kennedy with 36.2 seconds to go accounted for the 52-39 final score.

“I think South Portland played good defense and I felt we played poor offense until midway through the third period,” Brown said. “Then we started to play well. I think we played one-pass, two-pass offense and we weren't shooting well. I thought we had some decent looks, but the ball wasn't going in. We didn't play nearly as good team basketball offensively. Truthfully, I thought they ran good offense in the first half and it bothered us.”

DiStasio led the Stags with 17 points. Faithfull added 16. Foley finished with nine, Gwilym added six, while Cummings and Foster had two apiece.

“(South Portland) played really well,” said Faithfull. “We didn't get into our offense too well. We locked in on D. The offense came. We started playing as a team again and we got it done. They played hard the whole game. That's what we expected. They're a good team.”

Both Brown and Faithfull loved the tournament environment and the fact that their team was pushed for most of the game.

“This was great for us,” Brown said. “We've had one game under 10 points. We have to be able to play down the stretch. It was meaningful for me to come in here. This is what we used to play in. (Red Riots' coach) Phil Conley deserves all the credit for taking this team two years ago to a packed house tonight. We used to come here with empty seats all over. Phil has really turned this program around to that excitement again.”

“It was fun,” added Faithfull. “We're the targets. Everyone looks to knock us out. It was good to have a close game. Especially going into the playoffs. We needed it. We'll try to keep getting better from here.”

Conley wasn't the least bit discouraged after the loss, feeling his kids put forth a great effort against the champs.

“I thought defensively, we played a very good game,” he said. “They scored a couple baskets at the end of the third and we didn't counter. They made a couple at the start of the fourth and we didn't counter. That was the difference in the game. Cheverus is a very good team. They're number one in our conference for a reason. I liked the way my guys played, their intensity. We'll make some adjustments offensively to correct that time when we didn't score.

“I think we can build on this. They're number one and undefeated. We were right there with them. We've been playing pretty well. We beat Portland. This was a game where we missed some shots. We had some opportunities to score and they didn't fall for us tonight. We won't make a major adjustment offensively. Keegan had two or three guys on him all game and still had 20 points. I thought he had a very good game.

“I have to tip my cap to the SP community. They've been great to me and to our team all year. They're our sixth man. It was a great turnout. For our guys to play in front of crowds like this is a reward to how hard they worked in the summertime.”

Hyland wound up with more than half his team's points. Bowring and Hasson both finished with five, Kennedy had three, while Curit, DiBiase and Vignjevic all added two.

South Portland (third in the latest Western A Heal Points standings) is at Deering Wednesday and closes the regular year at Portland Friday.

“We take it one game at a time,” Conley said. “We'll get ready for Deering Wednesday.”

Cheverus (first in Western A) has a chance to go unbeaten for the first time since 2004-05 (a year which saw the Stags upset by Deering in the regional final). After visiting Portland Tuesday, Cheverus closes at home versus Deering Friday.

While going 18-0 is not the ultimate goal, the squad is aware of the opportunity.

“It would be nice, but we're just looking to get better,” Faithfull said.

“Being undefeated always means something to the ego,” Brown added. “In reality, I want to be pushed to the limit. I think we were the pushed to the absolute limit tonight. If Keegan hit a couple shots, it's a closer ballgame and maybe we don't pull it out.”

Jay 45, Mt. Abram 39

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

SALEM - Junior forward Hillary Deane tickled the twines with 25 points as Jay picked themselves up by the bootstraps for a 45-39 victory over Mt. Abram in MVC girls' basketball action Saturday.

The Roadrunners (11-5) jumped out to a 20-5 lead in the first quarter, but failed to maintain the momentum over the ensuing three quarters. Senior forward Kenni Norton notched a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds for Mt. Abram.

Deane was consistant throught the contest for the Tigers (12-3). If she wasn't scoring field goals, she was making free throws, going 9-of-12 from the charity stripe.

Mountain Valley 58, Livermore Falls 31

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

LIVERMORE FALLS - Junior guard Lauren LePage mustered 14 points as Mountain Valley cruised to a 58-31 victory over Livermroe Falls.

The Falcons (13-3) were a bit more aggressive on offense, making many shots from the outside. Mountain Valley led 30-17 at the half.

Freshman guard Kathryn Ventrella notched a team-high eight points for the Andies (8-9) on three field goals and a pair of free throws.

Madison 60, Monmouth 49

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

MADISON - Senior forward Simon Elias notched a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds as Madison fended off a scrappy Monmouth, 60-49.

The Bulldogs (11-5) jumped out to a 30-19 halftime lead. Sam Perkins contributed 16 points, while Ezra Gourley added 13 points for Madison.

The Mustangs (1-15) kept the Bulldog's defense guessing in the second half, playing to a 30-30 tie across the two frames to prevent any additional bleeding. Eric Smith led Monmouth with nine points in the losing effort.

Ruff's triple-double feeds Mountain Valley

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

RUMFORD - Travis Ruff recorded a triple-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists to lead Mountain Valley to a 69-30 triumph over Telstar.

The Falcons (14-2) broke the game open with a 24-12 spurt in the second quarter to take a 35-19 lead at the half.

Ruff also recorded seven steals. Cameron Kaubris scored a game-high 17 points and had six thefts. Jon Benjamin sank five 3-pointers for 15 points. Dan Vaughn led Telstar with six points and six rebounds.

Andies claim bragging rights

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

JAY - Livermore Falls could get used to this.

As athletics in these proud, neighboring, riverside communities go, life doesn't get much better than winning a game that punches your ticket to the playoffs and pays your rival's cab fare home.

Minutemen go to 15-1, top Houlton by 8

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

The Stearns Minutemen traveled to Houlton Saturday Night to take on the Houlton Shiretowners & Came away with a hard fought 52-44 win. Stearns led by as many as 15 in the 3rd quarter, but Houlton battled back & Got it to within 6 a couple times. Stearns was led by Tyler Richards, who had 18. Garen Manzo had 13, Zach Sadlon added 10, Cory Barnett had 5, while Brett Baker, Billy Eurich & Brandon McLaughlin all had 2 points each for the 15-1 Minutemen. Houlton was led by James Bates, who had 17. Porter Gervais had 11. Jordan Bragan added 7, Dylan Flewelling added 5, while Jordan Codrey & Patrick Longstaff had 2 points each for the 7-9 Shires. Stearns next game is Wednesday, February 4th @Dexter. tipoff is set for 7:00PM.

Score By Quarters:
Stearns - 12 30 39 52
Houlton - 12 20 31 44

Saints squelch Rangers

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

AUBURN - Friday night's Western Maine Conference clash between Traip Academy and St. Dom's took on a decidedly Mountain Valley Conference flavor, and not just because there were representatives from the rival Class C conference scattered about Callahan Family Gymnasium scouting potential tournament foes.

It didn't take long for the game to turn into an MVC-style scrum, which was to St. Dom's liking. The Saints exploited a 36-3 advantage in free throw attempts to pick up an important 51-37 win.

Still unbeaten, those Stags

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

SOUTH PORTLAND — Cheverus High basketball coach Bob Brown has been wanting a team to push his unbeaten Stags.

He got what he wanted Friday night.

South Portland hung around for nearly three quarters before Cheverus pulled away for a 52-39 victory at a packed Beal Gymnasium.

"I thought we played poor offense and they played good defense until the middle of the third quarter," Brown said.

EL pays back Morse

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

BATH - There won't be an undefeated monolith overlooking the Eastern Class A boys' basketball tournament this year. But we'll still see a top seed that has beaten everyone on its schedule.

Edward Little High School has now avenged each of its Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference defeats after a 60-47 payback of Morse that smelled easier Friday night.

’Jammers roll to 16th straight

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 31st, 2009 by Tom Nolette

ROCKPORT, Maine — What’s the secret to knocking off the undefeated Camden Hills boys basketball juggernaut?

No one’s figured it out yet, but it may start with trying to frustrate the Windjammers early — because once they get going, they’re proving to be unstoppable.

Saints squelch Rangers

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 30th, 2009 by Tom Nolette

AUBURN - Friday night's Western Maine Conference clash between Traip Academy and St. Dom's took on a decidedly Mountain Valley Conference flavor, and not just because there were representatives from the rival Class C conference scattered about Callahan Family Gymnasium scouting potential tournament foes.

It didn't take long for the game to turn into an MVC-style scrum, which was to St. Dom's liking. The Saints exploited a 36-3 advantage in free throw attempts to pick up an important 51-37 win.

Still unbeaten, those Stags

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 30th, 2009 by Tom Nolette

SOUTH PORTLAND — Cheverus High basketball coach Bob Brown has been wanting a team to push his unbeaten Stags.

He got what he wanted Friday night.

South Portland hung around for nearly three quarters before Cheverus pulled away for a 52-39 victory at a packed Beal Gymnasium.

"I thought we played poor offense and they played good defense until the middle of the third quarter," Brown said.

EL pays back Morse

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 30th, 2009 by Tom Nolette

BATH - There won't be an undefeated monolith overlooking the Eastern Class A boys' basketball tournament this year. But we'll still see a top seed that has beaten everyone on its schedule.

Edward Little High School has now avenged each of its Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference defeats after a 60-47 payback of Morse that smelled easier Friday night.

’Jammers roll to 16th straight

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: January 30th, 2009 by Tom Nolette

ROCKPORT, Maine — What’s the secret to knocking off the undefeated Camden Hills boys basketball juggernaut?

No one’s figured it out yet, but it may start with trying to frustrate the Windjammers early — because once they get going, they’re proving to be unstoppable.

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